Parenting Vivian | 01 Mar 2010 06:41 am

Adolescence – Prepare Your Teen For Developmental Changes

Appearance becomes critical in adolescence, and for many, new development may be imagined worse than it really is.

Adolescents are extremely self-conscious and sensitive to changes in their appearance. They worry about the changes they notice in their bodies, so it is crucial for parents to talk to teens about normal physical development, so that they know what to expect.

Your adolescent’s body grows at different rates. At times, his or her arms, legs, nose, or chin may seem to be out of proportion with the rest of their body. Also, he or she may be acutely aware (or unaware) of the development of body odor and the need for frequent bathing.

Some teens imagine that the whole world focuses on these changes and may spend hours in front of the mirror. A sudden breakout of acne might be very distressing for them. Other body changes may even be scary. For example, a boy who has gynecomastia (transient enlarged breasts due to puberty) may be alarmed that he is developing breasts like a girl, or may fear cancer. A girl who has not been prepared for menstruation may believe that her first period is due to internal injury or serious illness. Talk with your teen about body changes so that he/she is prepared for them when they arrive.

Remember that your adolescent is also aware of the changes they see in his/her friends and may compare themselves to others. Not everyone grows at the same rate, nor do they enter puberty at the same time. This may affect the overall well-being of your adolescent. For instance, some boys who develop later than others tend to have poorer self-image, and lower educational goals than boys who progress through puberty earlier. Conversely, some girls who develop early tend to have poorer self-image than girls who develop later.

Make sure to praise and reassure your teen to prevent low self-esteem. To help your adolescent develop a healthy self-image, do not be critical. Provide helpful insight to support your teen and resolve problems.

Dr. Hillary is a pediatric nurse practitioner with a doctoral degree in health promotion and risk reduction. She works as a pediatric clinician and writes for Plugged in Parents. Plugged In Parents provides up-to-date info on pediatric health, safety and nutrition along with movie reviews, recipes, tech-savvy tips, and a parent’s only forum. You can also contact Dr. Hillary for personal questions related to health and nutrition.

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